x148.......The Devil Changed His Tactics--And we still haven't figured It Out!!
Let's take a look at the early parts of church history.
The new covenant church began at the day of Pentecost. It was an obedient church--it pleased God and had tremendous results--The people in this earliest church had amazing miracles happen and were added to daily (Acts 2)--and had incredible authority. They existed in the same city (Jerusalem) that had just killed Jesus! They lived in a country that was under the control of the Roman empire and the influence of the Jewish Sanhedrin--both were clearly against Jesus and anyone following Him--and yet the Bible says that "they had favor amongst all the people"--! They met daily in the Jewish temple--the same Jews who had just executed the Lord! They just knew their authority--they moved and functioned under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. There were, immediately following the day of Pentecost, thousands of Christians suddenly in the city of Jerusalem (on the first day of Pentecost 3,000 were saved and therafter the Lord added to the church daily). Yet they had no form of leadership but that of the Holy Spirit. They operated in the apostolic system which Jesus had demonstrated--small groups, praying in the Spirit--receiving the word from God, and quickly carrying out Christ's purposes--feeding the poor---preaching the Gospel--praying for the sick and those in need of deliverance--and freely releasing one another to the same apostleship. Free ministry for all to particpate in.
Now at this time in history--the Bible ends. Perhaps there are many reasons for this--one of which might be that the church was now to undergo a transformation that was not of God.
In the first 200-300 years after Christ, the church was almost constantly under attack and persecution. Yet, during this time of persecution, the church spread across the known world like wildfire. In spite of torture and all types of horrible persecution (from the devil of course)--the church flourished. It looked as if the church was quickly going to carry about the mandate from God to preach the Gospel all around the world in a short amount of time.
But then, the devil changed his tactics. He realized a very important thing. If he could corrupt leadership, he could take down vast numbers of Christians. He needed to attack the apostlship--the free ministry--by which this church was spreading, and overcoming his kingdom. He did this in a cunning way, and I believe we have yet to completely discern this plan that is still in place in the church today in many ways.
All the emperors of Rome had persecuted the church in some form or another. Yet the church continued to spread and bring in those who were zealous for the Lord. In those days if you wanted to be a Christian, you had to be truly converted--because in many instances you were giving yourself a death sentence by becoming a Christian. But the devil now used a clever ploy.
Constantine, the emperor of Rome is said to have seen a vision of a cross during a battle, and was converted to Christianity. It is recorded that Constantine then passed a law that said that anyone could worship any God they chose--he allowed Christians and any people to believe whatever they wished. It was no longer illegal to believe in Jesus. It was recorded that Constantine ordered 50 Bibles to be made and distributed (apparently the Bible was already formed and known and was about to "come out of hiding"). Now, because Constantine was himself a Christian, he invited many of the Christian leaders to work and function within the Roman government. Christians were suddenly given positions of authority--but within the sick and corrupted Roman system.
Then along came Constantine's successor Theodoscious. This is where the devil pulled the biggest deception that has ever been committed to the church, and one that in many was goes unrecognized to this day. Theodoscious passed a law that made Christianity the "official religion of Rome" . Suddenly everyone was forced to go to church! The places of worship became filled with people who really did not want to be there! They were "forced" by law to attend church and be Christians. In fact, it was recorded that these "Christians" were made into small armies and physically attacked pagan places of worship!
What had the enemy done? He had turned around his attack unknowingly to the Christians. He placed them in positions of authority--something which looked to them like the will of God (catholics still beleive this to be the case!). Imagine for a moment their delemma. For over 200 years they had been persecuted--brutally--thrown to lions, crucified--burned alive--by the Romans. Certainly during this time they prayed to God for deliverance (no one prays to be persecuted---right!?) When suddenly---and in a seemingly miraculous way, the Roman emperor suddenly becomes a Christian, it certainly must have seemed like a great miracle from God! Sudenly they went from being under severe persecution, to being invited to the emperor's palace---and gained favor in the government. Thing of the temptation. What if the ruler of the world, came to your church, and said that he wanted to make your church the "offical church" of the world. Is this an offer from God, or a deal with the devil?
They seemed to be in authority--yet they were still under the emperor's rule, and could be used in any way he pleased. And over the course of the next years, the church was irrecovably changed---into the very image of the worldly government that Jesus had warned about.
As Halley's Bible handbook states--"the church now took on the militaristic form of government that Rome possessed." It is well recognized that it was at this point that paganism entered into the church--worship of idols--eventually leading to wrong un-Biblical doctrines such as purgatory--and payment for salvation. Certainly the Gospel of works was substituted for the Gospel of grace. It is interesting to note that the Bible was "held captive" during these times (and for the next 1,000 years!). The common person was not allowed to read the scriptures, and it was not until the Bible started to become more widely available to more people that these wrong doctrines became exposed and the gifts began to be restored to the church.
But what is most important for us to understand is what impact this "militaristic" form of government had upon our idea of church. In the Roman empire, a ruler, an emperor, ruled as God himself. The common people came to pay homage to him--they were under his strict control--he really had all the authority. There were vast groups of people (the congregation) who had no purpose and function other than to support the upper echelon of rulers. The new covenant church began to be ruled by the old covenant govenment. A renewed Levitical priesthood---which was clearly done away with in the new testament (see Hebrews chapters 5-10)--became the operational plan for the church. Documented catholic history tells us that the format and operation of the church shifted from apostlship to teaching---since everyone was now legally a Christian---no need to witness the Gospel---all the focus of the church centered on the (endless) teaching of the common people. In later years the same idea of government was carried into the Dark Ages with the idea of nobles and peasants--an idea that was heavily practiced in the church of that day.
Now in our age, since Martin Luther discovered--or rather rediscovered --that salvation was of the Lord and not of our works or obedience to man's rule--we have seen the the gifts are being restored to the church. First the gift of salvation (the free gift--the gift of God) Next, only 100 years ago-we see that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were restored. A good question is this--What kept these gifts from being restored--even after the Bible began to be commonly published? The answer is simple--erroneous leadership that clung to the traditions rather than be obedient to the Word of God. As long as we believed the strict form of government in which our leaders are always right, these gifts would be forever lost--it took common people reading the Bible freely to restore these gifts.
But the question remains--what is the devil's greatest stronghold? As long as we cling to the strict ideas of leadership that are not Biblical--that were not practiced by the New Covenant church, he will always have this stronghold in the church.
Are we truly seeking Gods highest plan--which is apostleship? Or, are we still looking for a good money deal from the devil?